Bangladeshi security officials have detained 21 people, including three suspected members of a banned radical group blamed for many recent attacks on atheist bloggers, liberals and minorities.
Police said on Friday the other arrested people belonged to the Jamaat-e-Islami party, whose top leadership is embroiled in war crimes trials over their role in the 1971 war of independence.
Detectives arrested three members of the Ansarullah Bangla Team (ABT) militant group in separate drives in southeastern Chittagong district early on Friday, said Detective Branch additional commissioner Nazmul Hasan.
The arrested men were identified as Farhad Hossain Ripan, a 27-year-old former student of Chittagong University, Mohammedd Emran, 25, a former student of Chittagong Polytechnic Institute, and Ahmed Roni, 21, a student of Shyamoli Ideal Polytechnic Institute. Officials seized two laptops, three mobile phones and books on jihad from them.
Hasan said the detainees said during interrogation that they work as ABT members and regularly attended secret meetings in the district. “I think we will get vital information from them about the group,” he said.
Friday’s arrests came after a man who had recruited these three men was captured by security officials last month.
Musa Ebne Omayer, a converted Muslim, was their mentor. His former name was Piklu Das and he was a Hindu who converted to Islam in 2013 to marry a Muslim woman he was in love with.
Omayer, a resident of Chhanahara village of Patiya Upazila in Chittagong, also managed funds for the group.
Meanwhile, police in Bangladesh’s capital detained 18 people during a “secret meeting” at the Islamic International School and College in Badda area, said local police station chief MA Jalil.
He said they were allegedly holding a “clandestine meeting” though it was not immediately clear what charges they would face. “We have brought them to the police station. We are questioning them,” Jalil said.
The Jamaat-e-Islami, a key partner of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by former premier Khaleda Zia, has been struggling to stay afloat as several of its top leaders have been convicted of war crimes. Four leaders have been hanged since 2013 after being convicted of genocide while thousands more are facing criminal charges stemming from previous anti-government movements that turned violent.